Travel around the Midwest

Geocaching / Letterboxing

I am typically not one for outdoor adventures, so it isn’t surprising that these forms of wholesome entertainment have escaped my notice.  However, I recently had a student mention that it would be fun to add a Geocaching component to our upcoming trip to Europe, so I decided to investigate.

examples of geocaching containers... thanks to www.geocaching.com

examples of geocaching containers… thanks to http://www.geocaching.com

In a basic Google search I learned that Geocaching is basically a global scavenger hunt.  It is suitable for all ages, which makes it a perfect family outing,  fun activity with friends, or even a solo adventure.

Caches are small containers, usually camouflaged to make the hunt a bit more interesting, and can be filled with an assortment of small trinkets, as well as a log book.

Searchers sign the logbook and are welcome to exchange one of their trinkets for one inside the box.  Caches are hidden in exotic locations, urban areas, and suburban neighborhoods.  In essence, they are everywhere and can be enjoyed by anyone.  I am intrigued.

It is easy to establish a free account at Geocaching.com … although I have a feeling that the $29.99 annual fee is worth the expense for those who plan to search on a regular basis.

Required supplies are few:  a map, compass, good walking shoes, and a pencil.  A smart phone can be used for the first two items, and the pencil is to log your name in the cache book.

The website shows all caches in a given area, which can be searched by address, county or region.  Going to the local park for the afternoon?  Research possible caches to add enrichment to the day’s activities.  It is simple and affordable.

I have realized, however, that my sparse Girl Scout training in using a compass is not like riding a bike, and I need to reacquaint myself with some basic skills before I venture out on my own.


Letterboxing kit... image thanks to New Times

Letterboxing kit… image thanks to New Times

Letterboxing is quite similar, but with a twist:  inside the hidden container is a log book and a rubber stamp, unique to the theme of the particular letterbox.   Searchers also carry a log book and a personal rubber stamp.

Once the container is found… searchers stamp the box’s log with their personal stamp, as well as stamp their personal log with the box’s unique stamp.

I love the idea of creating my own “passport” and collecting stamps from all parts of the world (or neighborhood, as the case may be).

Letterboxing originated in England in the 19th Century; however, it didn’t make its way across the pond until the late 1990s.  For this reason, I don’t think it is quite as popular in the states, and certainly not as plentiful as geocaches, but I think it could be a fun endeavor all the same.

There are two primary websites used for letter boxing in North America:  letterboxing.org and Atlas Quest.

After I have mastered the compass basics, I hope to attempt a few searches in my hometown.  I will report the results, if I find any.

In the meantime, have you ever participated in this sport?  Do you have any tips for a novice?

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